Anger and desperation have characterised the reaction to Johnson proroguing Parliament. And it has come not just from those of us who want the UK to remain in the EU but from many others who are outraged by Johnson’s assault on representative democracy. But should pro-Europeans really despair? Or are we at a turning point in a Brexit journey that is running out of road?
I’ve always thought that Brexit would collapse under the weight of its own contradictions. We may be near that point. After three years of national debate dominated by Brexiteers, what have we learned?
First, that Brexit makes so little sense that ‘brexiteers’ have never been able to agree between themselves how on earth it should happen. It never mattered in the referendum campaign. Those on the leave side could just conjure up a speech bubble and fill it with their own ‘dream your own Brexit’ fantasy. They’ve had three years now to make it happen and have failed to agree on anything.
That failure has now morphed into a rather more dangerous phase where, having realised that there is no logical Brexit, they’ve stopped even pretending there is. Instead, we have the spectacle of pro-Brexit politicians falling over themselves to shout ‘we must do it anyway, it’s the ‘will of the people’’. The result is the pivot to a ‘no-deal’ Brexit.
Knowing that Parliament would never accept a ‘no-deal’ crash out of the EU, Johnson has doubled down to close Parliament. Knowing a change to the backstop is unlikely, he’s ready to blame the EU. And he’s also characterising Parliament as the enemy of a deal rather than coming clean and facing the reality that Brexit is full of contradictions and is immensely damaging.
Lord Heseltine described the leave referendum campaign as “a giant confidence trick and a deception on a giant scale.” The giant deception is unravelling. Brexit hasn’t happened, not because of Parliament or the EU but because it doesn’t make sense. The sleight of hand that deceived the electorate in 2016 is now resorting to a clenched fist as it suspends British democracy and seeks to blame anyone who stands in its way as traitors. These are signs of desperation not confidence. The end of the road for Brexit project may be nearer than we think.
By Dominic Byrne, Nottingham People’s Vote campaigner